15 Practical Party Tips
7. Be sure you have all the ingredients you need in hand 24 hours ahead. Prepare anything that can be made in advance, like pies or certain salads, the night before.
8. Have a checklist of everything you need to do and to prepare. Try to make the list in order of what you need to do first to last. Check things off as you go. That will cut down on last-minute panic. An hour before your guests are expected, you should have just about everything done. Plan it that way — then go and take a shower and get dressed. You don’t want to be caught in your apron with your hair askew when everyone arrives. It’s all about planning. And, remember, this party is for you to enjoy as much as for your guests.
9. Delegate. If there’s a roast to carve or wine bottles to open, have in mind a couple of friends you can ask to take care of it when they arrive. If you’re alone, you have to get used to asking for help. That was a hard lesson for me to learn.
10. Stock up on a variety of beverages. If budget is a consideration, don’t serve hard liquor; it’s more expensive than beer or wine, which most people drink, and it requires other accoutrements (ice, mixers, lemons and limes). But be sure to offer several choices for those who don’t drink alcohol; seltzer water and juice usually cover the bases. It’s important to have on hand what you think your guests want. If you don’t drink, don’t impose that stricture on your guests. You’ve invited them to come and enjoy themselves, and that implies that you want to make them happy in the style to which they’re accustomed.
11. Put all drinks and hors d’oeuvres out on a selected table beforehand, with napkins, glasses, corkscrew, whatever’s needed, so people can help themselves. Make all this as automatic as possible. And set it all up in advance. As people arrive, just invite them to help themselves to a drink of their choice.
12. Pace the courses. Don’t rush the meal. Make sure there’s plenty of food so that everyone can have seconds if they want.
13. Be sure to offer coffee and tea when the meal has ended.
14. You’re there to enjoy yourself, but you’re also there to make sure all your guests are happy. If you notice that one of your guests is, for some reason, hanging back or not included, pull that person into the conversation subtly but deliberately.
15. The reason for your party will usually dictate the size of the crowd, but I’ve always felt that dinner for eight is the ideal size. It’s easy to cook for that number, and the conversation is much calmer and more focused when eight gather around a table.
Read how Edie Clark brings folks together for Orphan Holidays.